Los Angeles, California is a mecca for high-end car enthusiasts and eco-minded drivers alike. This year, the line between the two blur at the LA Auto Show, taking place at the Los Angeles Convention Center Nov. 18-27. More than 1,000 cars are on display, of which more than 70 are considered green vehicles.
Almost every car maker, from BMW to Kia is showcasing their own version of a ‘green’ car. You’ll find all-electric vehicles, hybrids, and cars that run on hydrogen fuel cell and natural gas. The number of cars on display that are powered by some form of electricity have grown by 25 percent since last year’s show.
BMW is debuting its i8 concept and i3 concept cars at the show. The BMW i3, touted as providing sustainable urban mobility, is all-electric and made to go far on just one charge. The The BMW i8 is the upgraded, sporty sibling of the i3, a plug-in hybrid that combines the modified electric drive system from the BMW i3 Concept with a high-performance three-cylinder combustion engine. The sports car can go from 0 to 62 mph in less than 5 seconds and can drive 20 miles on electricity alone. Both cars are encased in a carbon-fiber, reinforced plastic with futuristic see-through panels. The BMW i3 is slated for mass production in 2013 and will likely retail in the mid $30,000-range.
CODA Automotive, a Los-Angeles-based manufacturer of the all-electric four-door, five-passenger sedan, has its cars on display as well. The car, which just entered production, has a range of up to 150 miles with one charge. CODA got kudos from Los Angeles City mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, who spoke to press at the show, saying the city is going after green businesses like CODA to establish themselves in the city. “We want LA to become the electric vehicle capital of the US,” he said.
Additional green cars on display include the Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf and Toyota’s new Prius v. Lucky members of the media were allowed to test drive the cars. If you’ve never driven an electric vehicle before, getting used to the silence of an electric vehicle, not to mention not having to turn a key in the ignition takes time. But a few laps around the convention center and this reporter was sold. Time to go electric.
The Chevy Volt (a favorite of Jay Leno, among other celebrities) is a green car that can go 35 miles on electricity alone, but also contains on onboard range extender producing electricity so you can travel another 375 miles. For its silence, the car is still incredibly peppy and accelerates with just a touch of the pedal. A number of bells and whistles are featured on the console display. One is the efficiency gauge, a little green ball, that moves up and down – the goal being to keep it centered in the middle for optimal eco driving. The car retails around $39,000 and with rebates and tax incentives ends up costing about $31,000.
The Nissan Leaf, meanwhile, is 100 percent electric, with no tailpipes and no emissions. It offers a smooth and silent ride similar to that of the Volt. If you’re driving as eco-friendly as possible, a tree graphic in the corner display will light up. The car has an interesting shifter in the center column to get the car into reverse and drive that felt a bit strange, but once in reverse, the car offers a handy safety backup camera. The range for the car is estimated at 100 miles per charge, depending on driving conditions. It takes about eight hours to fully charge the car with the provided home kit. The Leaf retails for around $35,000 and ends up being around $27,000 with rebates and incentives.
The new 2012 Prius v is one of Toyota’s first steps in expanding the popular Prius family of cars. It builds on the original Prius technology and is similar in nearly every way except for having a more roomy interior. The back seats actually slide forward and back and recline almost all the way back, “perfect for a drive to Vegas, your friends in the back seat will get spoiled,” the Prius representative told me. The new Prius v is great for active types that need to haul a lot of gear, or a growing family. And, efficiency wasn’t sacrificed to add the space, as the car still gets about 42 mpg.
Interestingly, the winner of the 2012 Green Car of the Year Award didn’t go to an electric or a hybrid car, it went to a car that runs on natural gas. The Honda Civic Natural Gas Car was awarded the prestigious title during the LA Auto Show. Honda is one of the only companies manufacturing natural gas passenger cars in the United States. The car can drive 240 miles on one tankful of compressed natural gas that is domestically produced and costs about 30 percent less than gasoline. The sticking point with the car of course, is where to find a natural gas station. Luckily, the car comes equipped with technology that can tell you where your closest filling stations are, or the car can be time-filled at home with a special refueling device. The car is a dream to drive and has a roomy interior. Two hundred of the cars are already on sale at dealerships across the U.S. The car retails for $26,155.
Be sure to check out all of these vehicles and even more environmentally friendly cars on display at the LA Auto Show through Nov. 27. The Show is also open Thanksgiving Day in case you need to walk off all that turkey.